I have been staring at a brick wall. This wall has been a huge obstacle and an Achilles heel for too long. I am talking about the need for recognition. I cook for feedback, ideally positive, although I learn from the negative as well. It can be summed up quickly, the ideal response is a satisfied smile from the person eating my creations. Yet, in cooking and developing dishes over the years, I have yearned for more. I have wanted some sort of credit for the work I do. I search for peer recognition, the satisfaction that comes from knowing that other chefs and cooks understand and respect what I do. And what is funny is that when I get caught up in the search, I forget about that smile on the guests' faces and the reason why I became a Chef.
We are estalished in a small place. We have the luxury of interacting with all of our guests. In fact, we have always favored and searched out small venues for our cooking. This quest has led us to more and more remote places. It has been our experience that the more isolated the resort, the more emphasis is placed upon the food. The interaction between chef and guest is one of trust and faith. In an area when the guest is a willing captive (because there is literally no where else for them to go), an intimate relationship can be forged and new heights of culinary satisfaction can be achieved.
As I continue to grow and hopefully mature as a person and as a chef I have days where my gut is checked. We promote the concept that ideas are free. That is how we cook, teach and expand our horizons. In recent months, individuals have reached out to us via our website and asked for recipes, concepts, explanations and sources. Now here is where it gets interesting. We have been happy to share all of our thoughts with others. And yet, in sharing I usually add the caveat that we would appreciate a bit of recognition for being the source. My ego, yes, an apparently fragile ego, requested to be acknowledged for sharing ideas, supposedly free ideas. Yes, we spend time and energy working out details. So what, someone else will do the same for other concepts and their ideas will spark our ideas. We don't always mention the source of every idea that we write about and we have no reason to expect others to either.
People have often asked about why no one knows about Aki and myself and our culinary gymnastics. The more people asked the more frustrated I became, not realizing that the questions mean that people are finding us. Slowly but surely they are finding their way to our food. In choosing this intimate and isolated location as our stage we knew that it would take longer to be discovered. That was our original decision. We could have placed ourselves in a larger, more urban setting. We chose small. We chose relationships and freedom over easy recognition. We chose to walk our own path rather than climb someone else's ladder. As a result it's counterproductive to belly-ache about it now. We are lucky to have this website as a medium for sharing ideas. Does this mean I no longer want credit for our thoughts and work? No, it just means that now I understand that the questions themselves, the requests for information, are already an acknowlegement of what we do here. National recognition would be nice but it's not necessary. The respect I was looking for already exists, I just needed to open my eyes to see it. So, to everyone who has asked us for ideas and information and received a bill of credit, I apologize. Please tear up that bill.
Now how did I come to this epiphany today? I think I was ready, but I will share my sparks. The first came from a book I was given, The Art of Possibility by Rosamund and Benjamin Zander. I was stuck at the garage this morning, getting our car serviced and had several moments to read. An opening to a chapter caught my eye. I will quote it here and hopefully avoid the copyright authorities.
A shoe factory sends two marketing scouts to a region of Africa to study the prospects for expanding business. One sends back a telegram saying
SITUATION HOPELESS STOP NO ONE WEARS SHOES
The other writes back triumphantly,
GLORIOUS BUSINESS OPPORTUNITY STOP THEY HAVE NO SHOES
The second spark came later in the day when I was reading the Church of the Customer Blog where they posted Why the Steelers beat Indy.
Both these insights are comedic and pointed. They were not directly about credit, recognition or cooking. Yet, within their framework lies an essential fact. It is how you look at the picture. That is how we have been successful with our cooking and in our lives. It just took a couple of new style fables to open my eyes.